Sunday, 4 November 2012


Exterior of Soif, Battersea
It always rather irks me, when reading about a restaurant outside of Zone 1, to see it described condescendingly as a 'good local restaurant', as if to reach it would require a journey worthy of Gulliver and that the preparation of decent food is somehow dependent on the possession of a W1 postcode. 

To those of us who live in Zone 2 (or - horrors - even further afield) it's the central London gaffs that need travelling to; our local restaurants are just our restaurants, ta very much, and many of them are very good indeed.

One such, which I've only just got round to visiting despite the enthusiastic recommendation of others fortunate enough to have it on or near their doorsteps, is Soif in Battersea. The third wine bar and restaurant to open in a group which now numbers four (the others being Terroirs, Brawn and the newly-opened-at-the-time-of-writing Green Man & French Horn), Soif follows broadly the same if-it-ain't-broke don't fix it formula - great produce, rustic dishes, carefully-chosen wines in convivial casual surroundings.

If that sounds like your idea of somewhere fantastic then I'd heartily concur; the slightly bistro-by-numbers interior might feel a little dated but there's nothing not to love about the food. While choosing from the daily-changing menu, chalked up on a large blackboard, three of us grazed on an excellent charcuterie selection - butch rillettes, the fat countered by tiny, mouth-puckeringly sharp cornichons, herby pork terrine and salty, paper-thin salame toscano - and a dish of perfect little leaf-on radishes Peter Rabbit would've risked Mr McGregor's wrath for.

The menu and wines are chalked up on a blackboard at Soif.
The fat, tender chicken livers on toast with anchovy and rosemary butter which two of us chose for our starters were so big on flavour and beautifully balanced that I found myself craving them for breakfast the next day; I'd go so far as to say it was one of the best things I've eaten all year. Steak tartare - simply done, un-fannied about with, a process yellow egg yolk on top ready for smooshing in - was excellent.

Other mains - a nice hunk of roast cod with moreish, Moorish spiced chickpeas and alioli and a blushing pink magret of duck with garlicky sarladaise potatoes - were gutsy and faultless. It was a shame that bavette with duck fat potatoes was only available for two; I fancied red meat but no two of us could agree to have it so I ended up having the steak tartare from the starters, padded out with an exemplary green salad.

Instead of dessert, neither of the only two choices for which appealed, we shared a selection of immaculately kept French cheeses including  Soureliette, a wonderful unpasteurised ewe's milk whose nutty sharpness was the perfect match for a tangy bleu d'Auvergne and smoky Curé Nantais. I often find the prices charged for cheese in restaurants rather hard to fathom; £10 for three decent-sized pieces here seemed about fair.

As you'd expect from a restaurant whose name means 'thirst', drink is taken seriously and Soif's lengthy wine list is big on natural varieties, idiosyncratically categorised. There's a decent selection by the glass and carafe but cheap it ain't, with very few bottles under £25. That said you get what you pay for and our 2011 Roussillon 'Les Foulards Rouges' was, like my fellow diner Rich, full-bodied and bursting with character.

The 'slightly bistro-by-numbers' interior of Soif.
Two bottles of it, aperitifs and service pushed the bill for three up to £183 - just over £60 a head - which took me rather by surprise. The food had been good, and exceptional in places - those chicken livers, my gosh - but that still felt high, especially as similar quantities of even-better food and booze at sibling restaurant Brawn had only come in at about two-thirds that.

No matter; Soif is a very good restaurant and one to which, being lucky enough to be able to call it local literally, I'll be returning. Wherever you live, it's a journey I'd recommend you make, too.

Soif, 27 Battersea Rise, London SW11 1HG Tel: 020 7223 1112 

Soif on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Posted by +Hugh Wright


  1. I live in zone 4, up North, so I get this attitude a lot. That said, for me the difference between a good local or neighbourhood restaurant and one I might recommend without that epithet is that the former offers good food, good value, somewhere you really like having on or near your doorstep, and might visit often but really wouldn't travel to if you lived more than 10 minutes away; the latter might be somewhere you'd be happy to travel further for. Of course, I'd say some of the restaurants people rave about in central London really don't merit the attention, if I lived locally I'd go, but I wouldn't come into town especially, so they're probably good locals too! :)

  2. Oh agree re Soif, absolutely loved it although slightly on the pricey side.. but just so so good!

  3. Yes funny about the pricing, it's one of those places where the pricing looks OK then bites you in the behind when you get the bill. Still, I really enjoyed it and will go back, I'll just keep a closer eye on things!

  4. Couldn't agree more Kavey, I think there are definitely restaurants that are both 'good' and 'local' - but get called such pejoratively because the reviewer had to travel to get there. You hit the nail squarely on the head with 'neighbourhood' I think, a much more accurate, and less dismissive, description!

  5. Tres bon! I still haven't got round to writing mine up yet... The evening was a lovely one, though with great company that's always going to be the case! ;)

    I'd differ only in the cheeses which (mine certainly) I thought stingy for the price, though I am lardier than you! I wasn't a massive fan of the aoili either, I think it unbalanced the cod dish though that was perfectly cooked as you say.

    Pricing did end up on the steep side, but it was worth it for such an excellent soiree at Soif!


  6. Thanks Rich, kind words and great to have your input on those points especially the cheese. The main point which stands is, why IS cheese always so bloody expensive in restaurants? We know that the good stuff costs money but why mark it up so swingeingly - and blatantly?

    1. I'd always assumed cheese to be expensive in restaurants due to how much wastage there is likely to be when somewhere is keeping a large selection. Places that don't charge a lot for it, or offer it without charging a supplement are perhaps offering it as a "loss leader"?


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